Articles and interviews on current trends, technology and industry challenges, information on our consulting services, seminars and events as well as company topics:

Here you can find out what drives ROI-EFESO.

Realizing industrial sustainability

Experte:    Fernando Cruzado   |   04/25/2024   |   Teilen auf in


Mr. Cruzado, an EFESO event series is dedicated to the "heroes of sustainability transformation", for example in the chemical industry. What is the idea behind it?

FC: The idea is to expand the usual storytelling on sustainability topics in an industrial context. The focus is often on abstract figures and concepts, such as international targets, guidelines, or climate protection measures. However, when broken down to the everyday life of companies, there are real success stories that are worth telling. An enormous amount is being achieved here with different skills – in the development and use of technology, the implementation of the circular economy, supply chain transformations and in many other operational fields. These "hero stories" from the companies deserve attention.

In the case of the chemical industry, this sector is rightly referred to as the "mother of all industries" and chemistry is at the beginning of many value chains in other sectors of the economy. Accordingly, its products have a significant influence on everything that happens in this value chain – including, of course, the issue of sustainability. For example, with recycling solutions that advance the circular economy or with robust, lightweight materials for innovations in the field of renewable energies. In our view, this industry therefore plays a special "hero role" in the sustainability transformation, but it is not alone. Especially when it comes to the circular economy, for example, an eco-system of partners is often necessary to close the loop.


Expanding your own scope for action with new partnerships is also a practicable approach in other industries. What similarities do you see between the heroes of sustainability transformation? What characterizes their success?

FC: We have identified three success factors from working with companies that are setting standards in this area: for example, it is essential to ensure a secure supply of recyclable materials and the provision of suitable technology. What sounds simple is in reality a complex achievement: e.g., in return processes, efficient sampling of incoming materials, quality assurance or supplier payment. Having very well-functioning, profitable processes in this area is also critical to success in order to be an attractive partner for suppliers of recyclate products.

Transformation heroes also realize win-win models with customers and partners. A strong will to implement is an important driver here to consistently pursue the chosen course. This not only mobilizes appropriately qualified resources. At the same time, it generally creates a secure working framework in which the sharing of sensitive data and technologies works without additional security loops – an important prerequisite for achieving agile progress.

The third factor is the establishment of regionally focused partnerships. Within Europe in particular, waste transportation is heavily regulated, making local solutions easier and quicker to implement.


Many companies have set themselves long-term goals, for example for 2030 or 2050. How do you counter the risk of the commitment to sustainability falling out of focus and waning during this period?

FC: In many cases, legislation provides the necessary external pressure to prevent this from happening. Furthermore, expectations from the market and from end customers lead to the corresponding voluntary commitments. Nevertheless, when looking to the future, the figures are abstract. Best practice companies therefore break down their goals: They spread them across many shoulders, transforming the abstract into concrete task packages that make employees, teams, departments, and plants comprehensibly accountable.

Incidentally, this also presents a communication challenge. For example, what does it mean in concrete terms for individual organizational units to be "carbon neutral" by 2030? What contribution does each unit have to make? Many heroes define their goals and milestones according to the formula "ambitious but realistic". And ultimately, even with a broad time horizon, the journey must start now, with very specific measures.

"Transformation heroes realize win-win models with customers and partners."

Planning with specific measures is one thing – but without capital, time and the necessary qualifications, implementation is slowed down ...

FC: That's right. However, this further aspect - empowering the organization - does not only refer to the skills of the employees. It also refers to creating the conditions for change. In addition to qualifications, the focus here is usually on the availability of investment capital and the design of business processes. The transformation heroes in our event series, for example, provide very specific, specialized resources and task forces to achieve emissions targets. They examine exactly which measures can be used to achieve which results at the company locations.

It‘s important to bear in mind that sustainability projects can compete with capacity expansion measures – after all, more money is made with products than with sustainability in the chemical industry. Companies often deal with this by setting up a separate CapEx budget. Or by giving preference to projects with a sustainability contribution in the profitability analysis, for example through internal CO2 prices or a qualitative scoring model.

How can a transformation to industrial sustainability be successfully launched? Is there a recommended method for companies?

FC: In addition to the points mentioned, it is important to have a clear plan for the immediate future – what should happen in the next three to six months? How exactly do we want to get out of the starting blocks? And which measures will start with which triggers or framework conditions? The circular materials technology company Umicore, for example, defined clear trigger points based on growth scenarios to be able to start investment projects at the right time.

This resulted in a roadmap that can be dynamically adapted to changing market conditions and therefore guarantees profitability. After all, industrial sustainability must also be profitable. It will only be possible to keep the focus on the topic if all three dimensions are considered: people, planet, and profit. Many new business models, such as in battery recycling, already show that this works very well.

Learn more


Best practice at Umicore: Expert interview

ROI-EFESO services: Industry expertise

ROI-EFESO project examples: Case studies


Anna Reitinger

Anna Reitinger

Head of Marketing, ROI-EFESO
Tel.: +49 89 1215 90-0

Send mail